Ask a Poultry Farmer

Advice from a man with sixty years of experience with chickens, turkeys and waterfowl. With community blogger Dale Wheelock.

Ask a Poultry Farmer: The right way to sex a chicken

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Dale Wheelock
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Note from the farmer's daughter: The official term for determining the gender of poultry is "sexing". This is a G-rated post. Get your minds out of the gutter!

Many municipal ordinances only allow pullets, or young hens, within city limits.

How do you tell the pullets from the cockerels, or young roosters, when they're little?

One- to two-day-old baby chicks can be sexed by their wing feathers. Pullets have two rows of wing feathers while cockerels have one row. After two days the pullets' second row grows to the same length as the first row.

They also can be vent-sexed but this is difficult to do and is hard on the chicks.

There are many other methods that you can find online. Among them:

—Put a gold ring on a string, hold it over the chick and which way it turns tells you whether it's male or female.

—Hold the chick by the back of the neck. If they drop their legs they are male, if they hold up their legs they are female.

—Make a loud noise. The females will run, the males will stand their ground.

These methods are questionable at best.

As the chicks hit five to six weeks they can again be feather-sexed. This time you check the hackles (back of the neck). Females have rounded feathers—male pointed (see picture). This works for all but Sebright bantams which both have female hackles.

Also note that hens sometimes will have small spurs (normally a male trait). Once they get to about eight weeks the male will have a much more pronounced comb and wattles.

Of course you can wait to see who crows and who lays eggs.

The easiest are sex link. These are crosses “made” by the commercial hatcheries . The males and females are different colors.

We will talk about sexing turkeys and waterfowl another day.

As always, post questions in the comment section.

Dale Wheelock has been raising chickens, turkeys and waterfowl since he was a farm kid in the 1950s. He owns and operates the Wheelock Family Farm in Walworth County with his wife, Barb, and has been an agriculture leader in the community for decades. Read more about poultry farming at askapoultryfarmer.blogspot.com. Dale is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management. Have a question for Dale? Send him an email at askapoultryfarmer@gmail.com.

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